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1  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Yesterday at 08:17 AM
Took a week off, but, back to the fray!

Broken Clock

Once, when speaking of the need for bi-partisan cooperation, Bill Clinton said, “Nobody’s right all the time, and a broken clock is right twice a day.” In the spirit of that statement, I am going to admit that some of my right wing friends got it right when they told me my taxes would go up this year, and that it would be President Obama’s fault.

Both of those things are true, but not for the reasons my friends on the right were expecting. They were screaming gloom and doom about “Obamacare” and how it was going to raise everyone’s taxes through the roof. Well, that didn’t actually happen.

In fact, every single new bit of news coming out about the PPACA takes another little bite out of the spin, misinformation, and lies bubble the right has been trying so hard to keep from dissolving. A recent Reuters/ Ipsos poll shows the American people have now returned to their traditional position of trusting the Democrats more than the GOP when it comes to health care.

But, that’s another column. This is about my taxes, why they went up, and why it’s President Obama’s fault.

When we moved to Orange City shortly before I retired, we took a mortgage with an interest only period and a balloon later on. It was our intent to refinance after I retired and get out from under the balloon with a more advantageous mortgage. Then the housing bubble burst.

We were never “upside/ down” on our mortgage, but our loan-to-value was such that refinancing under the existing conditions was not feasible. Because we were not in default or under foreclosure, we did not qualify for the original Home Affordable Refinance Program.

That changed when the program was expanded, and people like us, who had never missed a payment and found themselves unable to refinance because of the drop in housing values and tightening of credit, were able to take advantage of it.

Last year, we refinanced. Our new mortgage cut our interest rate in half and shortened our payout from 30 to 20 years, with a payment that was within $25 of what we were paying on the interest only balloon mortgage we held previously. Our mortgage interest was cut by 50% for the latest tax year.

Of course, that meant our mortgage interest deduction on our federal tax return was also cut in half, resulting in a rise in our taxable income, and therefore a higher tax bill when we filed this year.

So, because of President Obama’s expansion of the HARP program, we saved over 50% of the money we were paying to a bank, and had to give about 30% of that savings to the government in the form of taxes. That’s a trade I wish I could make every year.

My “broken clock” friends on the right were correct. My taxes did go up, and it was President Obama’s fault. Thank you, Mr. President!

Wake up America!
2  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: libertarian? on: Apr 16, 2014, 05:48AM
You are confusing Republicans with Oligarchs.

A differentiation with no substance. Like saying you are confusing Trout with Fish.
3  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: where will the united states government be in 20-50 years? on: Apr 16, 2014, 05:44AM
I suspect the USA as a country will continue to hobble along, but the reality is, in the interconnected world we live in, the nation-state is a dead man walking. One has to look no further than the ongoing dust-up in Ukraine to see that. If the US and NATO really wanted to put the screws on Putin they would place sanctions where they would do the most good. But, that would require the US government to place sanctions on Exxon/ Mobil, requiring them to back out of the deals they have ongoing with Putin and the Russian gas companies. And we know what the likelihood of that is. Multi-national corporations already ignore national boundaries as if they weren't there. Unless the information/ internet revolution continues to give the common man a voice, and he chooses to use it, we are headed for global fascism, with the entire globe run by a plutocratic oligarchy. We are far down that road already.
4  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Apr 04, 2014, 08:49AM
different issue, but, yeah. It sucks. At least this guy was actually getting some treatment. That is not the case for most of the 22 veterans a day who are commiting suicide. I wish the party that is so gung ho to create veterans would be as gung ho about supporting them once they have used tyhem up and discarded them.
5  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Apr 04, 2014, 05:08AM
For 4 years the GOP and the puppet masters who pull their strings (the Kochs, Rupert Murdoch and FAUX News, etc) have done the American people a massive disservice by fighting to keep the truth about the ACA from getting out. Despite their worst efforts, (and hundreds of millions of dollars spent on spin, lies, and misinformation) it has, and the results are what those who believed in the law always knew they would be. As many as 15 million people have already gotten health insurance through the law, and that number will continue to grow. Maybe now the GOP will stop its incessant efforts to repeal this long overdue law.
                                    *                  *                  *
Or, maybe not. On the same day President Obama was announcing that 7.1 million Americans had signed up through the federal exchanges (the 15 million number also includes those under 26 who are now on their parents plans and those who have signed up through the Medicaid expansion, etc.), Rep. Paul Ryan was unveiling the latest edition of his disaster of a budget proposal. A central precept of this plan is, you guessed it, repealing the ACA. Go figure!
It also turns Medicare into a voucher system, and slashes massive amounts of money from food stamps, veterans programs, women’s health programs, and other social safety net programs so many Americans depend on, while giving massive tax cuts to the rich and corporations. You would think, after 35 years of proof of its disastrous effect, this doubling down on “trickle-down” would spell disaster for the GOP. But, again,……
                                    *                  *                  *
Maybe not. This week the SCOTUS doubled down on its disastrous ruling in the Citizen’s United case by removing virtually all limits on individual contributions to political campaigns and parties. I’m not sure this is as disastrous as it seems at first blush. It may be that the amount of money folks were willing to put into the system has already been reached, due to Citizen’s United. The money this ruling allows will be going to places that require disclosure of those who are giving. This may take money from the uncontrolled Super PACs and bring it back into mainstream of the system. If that is the case, this may not be a total disaster. I’m not holding my breath.
                                             *                  *                  *                 
In the month of March, for the first time in over a decade, there was not a single American serviceman, or woman, killed in combat anywhere on the planet. This President’s foreign policy has seen a consistent downward spiral in our use of military might as a tool of foreign policy, and an increasing reliance on diplomacy and international cooperation in the resolution of conflict. He is the best foreign policy President we have had since, at least, Nixon. We’ll see if he has the spine to impose sanctions where they will do the most good in the standoff with Putin over Ukraine. That would be sanctions against Exxon.
Wake Up, America!
6  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Mar 28, 2014, 07:01AM
Ok, um, thanks, I think. So, for 40 years, with the degree/ amount greatly accelerating in the last 20 or so, these folks have been lining their pockets with the profits they gained by selling products bought from a regime where forced abortion is a primary pillar of public policy. Me thinks they doth protest too much.
7  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Mar 28, 2014, 05:50AM

Note that Churches and non-profit non-religious businesses run by Churches (like Parochial Schools and Hospitals) can also refuse to cover certain medical procedures on religious grounds.  The difference here is that this is not a business run by a Church and they operate for profit.

I don't think Hobby Lobby has been mostly peddling Chinese stuff that long.  The shift of a lot of manufacturing to China really escalated over the past 20 years.  In 2000 Wal-Mart could still claim to be supporting American businesses.

Does that change the mind-boggling hypocrisy by one iota? This case is 100% politically motivated, and these people are massive, if unwitting, hypocrites.
8  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Mar 27, 2014, 07:00PM
Irrelevancies?  16 contraceptives prevent pregnancy.  4 cause abortions.  See the difference?  I realize abortion may be ok with you but that doesn't make the facts irrelevant.

Irrelevant to the case at hand. As the good professor pointed out, there is nothing in the law that forces Hobby Lobby to supply health insurance to their employees. They can opt out at anytime. Of course, opting out has tax implications. They want to have their cake and eat it too. If they want the tax advantages they can get for providing health insurance to their employees, those policies must meet minimum standards. They don't like the standards, no problem. Pay the
9  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Mar 27, 2014, 06:56PM
But most businesses, owned by liberals and conservative,  Russ, have things made in China.

Most businesses are not arguing before the SCOTUS they are being forced to support abortions when they have spent 40 years getting rich by supporting a regime where forced abortion is public policy. The hypocrisy is mind boggling.
10  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Mar 27, 2014, 08:10AM
4 out of 20 contraceptives, on the list, are objectionable.  Those four cause abortions.  Viagra's not covered either.

11  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Mar 27, 2014, 06:19AM
Not the first time.

If you recall the last presidential election, they decried many of the major polls and even made up their own to try to say that they would win.

Seems to be becoming a standard tactic. When reality doesn't suit your view, reject reality.

HOpefully, we'll see that happen again. But, Nate Silver has it 60/40 right now the GOP takes the Senate. He's been dead on in the last few cycles. Scary. Meanwhile...........


This week the SCOTUS is hearing arguments in the case of Hobby Lobby vs. Sebelius. In this case the owners of Hobby Lobby claim they should be allowed to deny provision of health care insurance coverage for certain types of contraceptives, as outlined in the PPACA, because it goes against their personal religious beliefs.

For all the seriousness with which this case is being covered, it is a baseless case that should never have been allowed in court. According to Scott Lemieux, Politcal Science Professor at the College of St. Rose, “ Hobby Lobby is not legally required to compensate its employees with health insurance at all.”

He continues, “ The regulations imposed by the ACA are on insurance plans, not the corporations per se. What is erroneously described as a “mandate” simply means that if corporations choose to take advantage of the tax benefits for compensating employees in health insurance rather than wages, the insurance has to meet minimum coverage standards. As is often the case with specious religious freedom arguments, the corporation wants it both ways, to get the tax benefits without providing the full benefits to employees.”

Hobby Lobby is a privately held corporation that was founded by David Green in Oklahoma City in 1972. They now have over 500 stores nation wide. In the filing for the suit it is stated, "The Green family's religious beliefs forbid them from participating in, providing access to, paying for, training others to engage in, or otherwise supporting abortion-causing drugs and devices.”

Hobby lobby has allowed the Green family to amass quite a fortune. At no time in the 40 years between the founding of the stores and the filing of their lawsuit did the Green family express any religious outrage over the FACT that roughly 85% of the merchandise they sell in their stores comes from China, where for over half a century forced abortion has been a mainstay of public policy.

It is pretty obvious that when it comes to putting merchandise on the shelves, and money in their pockets, the Greens have very little issue with  or “religious objection” to “participating in, providing access to, paying for” goods provided by an entity that engages in wholesale abortion as a matter of public policy. The Hobby Lobby lawsuit smacks far more of political grandstanding than it does of any true religious outrage over the requirements of the PPACA.

 I realize that critical thinking and religious conviction are, to a great degree, mutually exclusive issues, but to anyone who looks critically at the realities of this case, the degree of hypocrisy is mind boggling.

Sadly, our SCOTUS is currently stacked with troglodyte corporate shills, and there is a 50/50 chance the Hobby Lobby could win this suit. We have a desperate need for more centrist justices who are not in the pockets of the corporations. In the age of Citizen’s United any chance of that is a very slim one indeed.

Wake up, America!
12  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Mar 21, 2014, 06:09AM
It would appear political schizophrenia is contagious, and it is spreading from the GOP into the population at large. Many pundits and prognosticators are now predicting a tsunami GOP victory in the upcoming mid-term elections, giving them control of the Senate and a larger majority in the House.
Much of this is based on the recent special election here in Fla. in which Alex Sink lost a close election to a candidate who even many Republicans thought was an unelectable joke. Many attribute it to the President’s coattails and the ACA, and predict this is the issue that will power the tsunami.
I tend to think it is probably more attributable to the disaster unleashed on us by the Citizen’s united decision, and the fact Sink must be a horrible campaigner. She has now lost two elections in a row to opponents who shouldn’t have been able to get elected as dog catcher if running against a corpse. One a gadfly lobbyist, the other a confessed felon whose company plead guilty to 7 felony fraud charges and paid the largest fraud fine in Medicare history. (Why is it no one EVER goes to jail in those cases?)
These predictions are being made despite ongoing polling that would seem to indicate the exact opposite. This is where the schizophrenia comes in. According to a recent WSJ poll, Dems overall favorability shades that of the GOP 35% to 27%. Likewise, their unfavorable rating of 38% compared to 45% would lead one to believe the Dems should be in a very good position going into the mid-terms.
A very strong case can be made that this cognitive disconnect can be explained by the effects of the Citizen’s United disaster. There is no requirement that political advertising be truthful or accurate. For 5 years (well, actually 100 years, just not to the same degree) the American public has been under a constant barrage of Cheap Labor Conservative spin, misinformation and out right lies. A preponderance of this spin, misinformation, and outright lies has been devoted to a campaign against the ACA, but it is not the only area to see the onslaught.
Poll after poll shows that a large majority of the American people believe the deficit has grown immensely during the Obama administration. The truth is, the deficit has been reduced by half since the day the President was inaugurated. The President promised to do that in his first term, and only missed by a few months, despite the obstruction he has faced.
When President Obama was sworn in, the US was in the middle of the “Great Recession”. The economy shrank from December, 2007 to June of 2009, when the recession ended, and we have had almost 5 years of uninterrupted, if slow, growth. Yet, because of the spin, misinformation, and lies being fed to us by Citizen’s United money, 54% of Americans believe we are still in recession.
Dems currently lead the GOP 45% - 43% in who the polls say we would prefer to have control of Congress after the midterm elections, and yet we hear it is going to be a tsunami. The schizophrenia is spreading.
Wake up, America
13  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Mar 14, 2014, 05:36AM

Drill Baby, Drill!

This mantra, and the greed driven philosophy it represents, is doing immeasurable and, in some cases, irreparable harm to our country, its eco-systems, and our well being. Before disasters like Love Canal and Acid Rain made us aware of the dangers of industrialization there was an excuse. That is no longer the case.

In 2010, the Upper Big Branch coal mine in W Va. had been cited for 1,342 safety violations in the previous five years. The company found it cheaper, and less intrusive to their profit stream, to tie the violations up in court and pay fines than to fix the issues. On April 5, 2010 there was a massive explosion and cave-in resulting in the deaths of 29 miners.

Two weeks later, an oil well, Deep Water Horizon, exploded off the coast of Louisiana, killing 11 crewmembers and resulting in the largest oil spill in American history. Numerous flaws in the regulatory and enforcement regimes concerning deep water drilling were exposed. As of last week, 1,000 pound tar balls are still washing up on the shores of the Gulf Coast.

In July, 2010, a pipeline carrying tar sands oil from Canada ruptured, spilling almost 1,000,000 gallons of the highly toxic materiel into Talmedge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. The clean-up of that spill is still ongoing, and has risen to over $1Billion. (Keystone XL is a BAD idea)

On April 17, 2013 a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, that had last been inspected in 1985, exploded, killing 15 and injuring more that 160.

In January of this year, a chemical plant near Charleston, W Va. leaked massive quantities of a highly toxic chemical into the Elk River, contaminating the drinking water of more that a quarter of a million W Va residents. All told, more that 500 people had to seek medical treatment for effects suffered due to the spill. Long term issues are not clearly understood at this time.

Not two weeks later, a broken pipe spilled millions of gallons of Duke Energy coal ash into the Dan River in NC and Va. Duke has more than 20 of these coal ash dump sites in NC, all in close proximity to water sources.

And, now we find that the frakking operations going on in ND are dumping tons and tons of radioactive waste indiscriminately all over the state, rather than paying to have it disposed of properly.

It is not coincidence all of these episodes happened in states where the regulatory and enforcement mechanisms are controlled by one of our political parties. While none of these atrocities could have occurred without the complicity of both of our political parties, there is only one for whom it is the central theme of their philosophy.

They couch it in words like “Freedom”, and “Liberty”, but at its core, it is pure, unadulterated greed that drives their agenda, privatizing profits and socializing losses.

While the policies of that party serve only a very few at the pinnacle of the food chain in our society, every election cycle half of us, sometimes a few more, sometimes a few less, go into the voting booth and vote against our own interests and well-being. I just don’t get it.

Drill Baby, Drill!

Wake the frak up, America!

14  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Eccentric Aussie Billionaires on: Mar 09, 2014, 09:40AM
Yeah, they're bad for you guys, but I really wish you'd take back your eccentric billionaire who is so devastating the political discourse in our art of the world. I'd take all of those you're complaining about in an even swap for old Rupert!
15  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: The Crazy is now on open display in TX ... on: Mar 09, 2014, 09:38AM

 How could a dramatic increase in reasonable politicians in their ranks (i.e. when adults take the party back) not also dramatically increase their viability and the viability of our marginally representative political system?

Because a majority of their base is not intellectually or politically mature, and will not support adult representation.
16  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: The Crazy is now on open display in TX ... on: Mar 09, 2014, 05:54AM
Sadly, the GOP's vialbility has zero to do with whther mature adults are in charge. In fact, it seems that mature adults are frownned on there.
17  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Mar 05, 2014, 12:48PM
If I were President I would hire Jon Stewart and The Daily Show staff as my Press secretary. They do better at refuting foolish political notions than anyone else on the left and they can do it in a few sentences instead of a 100 page policy paper that no one reads or an hour long speech that no one watches.

Absolutely. After 5 years of hearing the TEAQ Partiers slamming our President as having no background other than being " a community organizer", I was astounded to see this excerpt blurb from the Daily Show in an email: "Author and former Senator Jim DeMint shares his views on how politics are dividing America and why community-based organizing is the solution. 


WWHHAAAATTTTT?????? The right-winger who is the farthest out on the right wing fringe now saying that community-based organizing is the solution to our political divide is mind boggling. This from the ***** who led the charge that destroyed ACORN. We live in a strange country!!
18  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Mar 05, 2014, 08:01AM

The degree of ideological pretzel twisting many on the right engage in is mind-boggling to anyone who thinks before they speak. The current dust up in Ukraine has sparked some truly amazing commentary from many of the usual suspects.
Sen. Lindsey Graham was one of the first to go off, tweeting “It started with Benghazi. When you kill Americans and nobody pays a price, you invite this type of aggression.” The right wing obsession with Benghazi defies logic to begin with, as the million or so hearings, reports, and witch hunts have turned up no credible evidence of any nefarious activity what so ever. But, Sen. Graham could just as well have tweeted, “ It started with Beirut…..”, the bombing in the Reagan administration that killed 182 American Marines. In that bombing, not only did nobody pay a price, but Reagan withdrew the American presence in Lebanon.
Then, you have Rudy Giuliani going on FAUX News and making the ludicrous statement, “Putin decides what he wants to do, and he does it in half a day. Then everybody reacts. That’s what you call a leader. President Obama, he’s got to think about it. He’s got to go over it again. He’s got to talk to more people about it”. Heellloooo…that’s not what a “leader” does, that’s what a dictator does. You can get away with things like that when the governing body you work with is filled with your hand-picked henchmen.
President Obama, thankfully, does not have that option. We have seen, for 5 years now, his hands tied, by obstructionists in the Congress, to keep him from acting in anything even remotely resembling the manner Giuliani would describe as “leadership”.
And, how ironic is it to see those who hold themselves up to be ever so patriotic lauding Putin while they dis our President? How patriotic can anyone be who praises a foreign dictator, who was at one time the director of the most infamous security apparatus on the planet, the Soviet KGB, while demeaning their own President? Aren’t politics supposed to end at the waters edge?
I would like to suggest to all those so loudly, and off key, singing “Crimea River” over our President’s efforts to deal with and defuse the situation in Ukraine think back just a few years. It was in 2008 that GW Bush faced an eerily similar situation that had many singing the Ray Charles hit, “Georgia, Georgia”. At the time, you didn’t hear the demagogues blasting President Bush. They sang an entirely different tune.
The truth is, as with many of the international crises ongoing in the world today, there are few good answers or actions open to the west in this episode. The best that can be hoped for is it will be resolved without significant bloodshed or displacement of the peoples of Ukraine. The US gave up any moral high ground to complain about a military intervention by anyone when we launched our immoral invasion of Iraq.
Wake Up, America!
19  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Arizona is at it again. on: Mar 03, 2014, 04:09AM
Oh yep I'm just sitting out here in the desert on my porch with a shotgun and spewing gay hate!
We're not -all- douchebags  :)

Maybe not, but you sure seem to elect more than a few of them. Not that that makesw AZ unique.
20  Practice Break / Purely Politics / Re: Wake Up, America! on: Feb 28, 2014, 05:24AM
Raising the minimum wage is a good idea that is long overdue. That said, those who believe it is “the” answer to income inequality in this country are seriously missing the big picture. Raising the minimum wage is a very small step on the road to restoring economic balance and security in this country.
First of all, folks need to understand that “income inequality” is not the core problem we face, just as the wracking cough is not the main problem faced by a tuberculosis patient. Income inequality is merely a symptom of the underlying disease that is decimating the middle class. Just as a tuberculosis patient will continue to decline, and eventually die, if you only treat him for his cough, addressing income inequality without dealing with the underlying causes of it will not cure the economic woes in this country.
You’ve heard me say it before, and you’ll hear it again and again, we need to restore a political and economic balance in this country. We had come very close to doing that in the post-war era, and that rising tide raised all boats, not just the yachts. We need a resurgence of the labor movement (maybe the northern European model could be used as a template), to do away with the absurdity of the “trickle-down” economic model, to reform the tax code to do away with the loopholes and inequities that allow the non-producing, corporate class at the top to avoid their responsibility to society, and to get the money out of our politics.
Until we do those things, we will continue to decline, and have the worst “income inequality” in the developed world.
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Nowhere is the schizophrenia of the GOP more apparent than in budgeting for the military. Right wing media is in an uproar over Sec. Def. Hegel’s announcement of proposed serious cuts to the nation’s standing military now that we are ending the longest war in our country’s history. These cuts do not even reach the depth of cuts made by the sequester, but you wouldn’t know that to hear the outcry from the right.
The fact we spend more on our military than the next 10 biggest spenders, 7 of whom are allies, is irrelevant to those who give blind and unequivocal support to the military/ industrial/ security complex. It matters not to them there is no credible threat in the world that justifies such a bloated budget. It is all important to them we have the where with all to protect American (now global) corporate interests anywhere any time.
But, when it comes time to take care of the individuals who make up that military, and suffer the human costs of their service, the GOP wants no part of it. Yesterday, Republican Senators, once again blocked a veterans jobs and retraining bill because they didn’t want to pay for it.
 To paraphrase Bernie Sanders, If we can’t afford to take care of the veterans, maybe we shouldn’t start the wars that create them.
Wake up, America!
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